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SAAS INFORMATION SECURITY CHECKLIST. PROTECT YOUR PRODUCT AND USER DATA

July 30, 2018
MARINA DANILOVA
Project Manager
Security issues in cloud computing have become critical with the growing demand for SaaS products. According to Forrester, outside attacks, human errors, and malicious insiders are among the most common causes of security breaches and data loss. From 2009 to 2014 the number of cybersecurity attacks increased tenfold (from 3.4 to 42.8 million per year). In 2017 the average cost of the data breach for business amounted to $3.62 million, while the cost per stolen record lowered to $141. Breach detection and mitigation expenses are the least of the business owners' worries as indirect expenses make up the large part of the losses. Reputational hits promote increased client turnover and higher customer acquisition cost most companies cannot handle.

To prevent catastrophic losses to your project, we offer a short SaaS security checklist to help you monitor potential vulnerabilities from the first day of development to the successful launch and beyond.

SAAS SECURITY BEST PRACTICES DURING DEVELOPMENT

Building a secure application from the ground up is always easier and cheaper than dealing with data breaches and correcting the issues after the damage is done. Every IT company has a set of security protocols and procedures, however, as a founder, you should encourage your partners to follow the best practices:

  • Develop and uphold a security review checklist. All members of the development team should be aware of the security requirements from the beginning of the project. There are no universal information security models or security checks to perform on all code, as they depend on the project. With the help of the chosen IT vendor, design a list of potential security flaws to keep in mind, update and review it regularly as new threats arise. If you outsource software development to a freelance developer or a dedicated team, ask security-centric questions during the interviews to ensure every person working on the project prioritizes quality and security over speed.
  • Perform and analyze security-oriented tests. While quality assurance and automated testing focus on the code's integrity and debugging, the development life cycle should also include security-specific testing sessions. The whole technical team can take part in targeting the product's weak spots and looking for vulnerabilities. You can rely on the OWASP Testing Guide. The latest fourth edition has been released in 2014 and contains dozens of test procedures for authentication, error handling, business logic, input validation, and network security in cloud computing.
  • Keep a backlog of security issues to be fixed later. Whichever project management tool your team prefers, there should be a log of all vulnerabilities located by developers and testers. Make sure everyone can add new issues and monitor the issues to be corrected at a later date. Security backlog increases the awareness level among software engineers working on your project.
  • Choose tested cryptography tools. Cryptography requires experience and expertise, so choose your web development company carefully and request the team use the best of the existing cryptography libraries, mechanisms, and tools. This approach ensures your encryption stays secure and can withstand hackers' attempts to disrupt the product's work and steal users' data.

ONGOING SAAS SECURITY EFFORTS

Information security measures should not stop after the product's deploy and launch. In fact, once users start interacting with your SaaS application, the number of risks increases exponentially. Therefore, ongoing security efforts are necessary to protect the project and user data. At FreshCode, we recommend these breach-preventative methods that complement each other:

  • Monitor third-party dependencies. Current SaaS development is virtually impossible without using multiple third-party libraries. If any of them possesses a critical flaw, your product and user information might be at risk. Check open source components for security issues regularly and address them before they cause security breaches and reputational damage.
  • Integrate real-time protection into the product. Code and SQL injections, account takeovers, and XSS attacks are among the common breach methods used to undermine SaaS products. Real-time monitoring through protection logic differentiates between legitimate queries and attacks protecting the product from breaches. Real-time protection tools can be incorporated into the code at the development stage while third-party security services can be integrated after launch.
  • Check for vulnerabilities using a penetration testing team. To perform the full-scale check of your SaaS architecture, order a full blind discovery. Unlike in-house developers, testers, and users, professional pentesters question even basic assumptions, providing a comprehensive list of vulnerabilities and issues in need of urgent improvement.
  • Accustom your employees to security practices. Everyone at your company, whether it is a SaaS startup or an established business, should be aware of the cloud security risks and preventative measures to be used every day. Simple routines like locking computers while stepping away and using password managers are prime examples of good security practices that often get overlooked. Secure employee accounts with two-factor authentication and encrypt work hardware, including smartphones. Create an onboarding and offboarding list to secure proprietary information and user data when new people join your team and when they leave.

USER-SIDE SECURITY MEASURES

However tight you make the security of your SaaS product, users can become a liability. To prevent data leaks and showcase your information security policies to users, try these methods:

  • Encourage complex password and two-factor authentication. Require users to create passwords that meet your criteria: the minimum length, special characters, and mixed case letters. Explain why this is important for personal data security. Two-factor authentication is preferable for SaaS providers that handle sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or SSNs.
  • Monitor suspicious user activity. Some customers may use your SaaS application to bother you or other users, try to hack the app and steal the data. You should monitor questionable users and prevent them from causing too much trouble. User tracking can be implemented in-app or through third-party security services.
Maintaining information security in cloud computing is a complicated task that should be treated with utmost care from the development stage to well after launch. Ongoing security measures can protect your company from massive losses, so use our checklist to ensure your SaaS project is safe on all fronts.

If you have pressing questions about SaaS security, contact FreshCode team. We will help you improve your project's defenses or develop the product with impenetrable security from the ground up.

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